Lt. Governor Tina Smith, joined by several hundred Minnesota workers, spoke at a Rally Against Wage Theft in the State Capitol Rotunda Feb. 15. The rally brought awareness to the issue of wage theft and highlighted the Dayton-Smith Administration’s proposal to strengthen workers’ rights and crack down on non-abiding employers.
“Wage theft is stealing. It’s not how we do business in Minnesota. Yet, it’s all too common — costing Minnesota workers nearly $12 million a year,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith.
Labor and Industry Commissioner Ken Peterson said the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) takes wage theft very seriously and has worked to recover $4.8 million in back wages for Minnesota workers over the last five years. DLI estimates that last year wage theft impacted more than 39,000 Minnesotans.
This session, Governor Mark Dayton, Lt. Gov. Smith, Sen. Champion, Rep. Mahoney, the Wage Theft Coalition, and others have proposed a series of investments and reforms to ensure Minnesotans are paid for their hard work.
“Minnesotans deserve respect and fair treatment from their employers; if that trust is violated, there must be a course of action to punish them,” said Rep. Tim Mahoney (DFL- Saint Paul). “This legislation will not only protect workers and give them tools to know if they’re victims of wage theft, it will empower our state government to fully investigate these crimes.”
Those proposals include:
- Funding to Enforce Wage Theft Protections – Investing $1 million in the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) to investigate and crack down on wage theft.
- Defining the Law, Making Clear Wage Theft is Wrong and Illegal – Establishing a definition of wage theft and making clear it is illegal.
- Power of Subpoena – Giving the DLI investigators the power to subpoena documents. This power would help ensure the agency is able to compel production of records when employers refuse to submit them.
- Empowering Workers with Information – Requiring notice of information to be provided to employees at the start of employment, including employee rate of pay, the legal name of the employer, the employer’s address and phone number, etc.
- Creating Stiffer Penalties to Prevent and Crack Down on Wage Theft – Increasing penalties for employers that fail to keep employment records, and for employers that willfully or repeatedly violate wage and hour laws. The Governor and Lt. Governor’s proposal would create a criminal penalty (gross misdemeanor) for willful and repeated violations of wage theft laws.
- Issuing Citations for Wage Theft Violations – Increasing the fines for willful and repeated violations of wage theft laws from $1,000 to $10,000 per violation.
- Ensuring More Regular, Reliable Paychecks for Minnesota Workers – Requiring that employers pay employees every 16 days, rather than every 31. Under current law, an employee could work 41 days without knowing whether they were going to be paid or not. Under the Governor and Lt. Governor’s proposal, the maximum number of days would be 31 at the start of employment and 16 days thereafter.